Stedman takes Newton mayor office

For the first time in Newton's 150-year history, a woman has sworn to "faithfully execute" the duties of the office of mayor to the "best of her ability."

With her son Charles Stedman holding a Bible and her family surrounding her, Anne Petree Stedman was officially installed as Newton's mayor on Tuesday.

"I want to thank the voters who came out and voted in the election," she said, adding that she was also disappointed in the overall turnout of November's off-year, municipal election. "Local elections affect you personally more than any other elected body ... (They) affect every aspect of your life. ... I do know we have a great board and I am excited to get started."

Moments after taking the oath of office administered by N.C. District 25 Judge Robert A. Mullinax Jr., Stedman guided Newton City Council through the process of filling the seat she vacated — a seat that is now occupied by her challenger in last month's mayoral election, Wes Weaver.

Council member Robert Abernethy Jr. nominated Weaver to fill Stedman's unexpired two-year term on the council.

"There were a lot of good names that came forward through the process — a lot of people I really respect," Abernethy said. "I think they could do a very good job on the council, but there was one person that stuck out to me."

Bill Lutz, who was also elected mayor pro tem by a 3-2 vote Tuesday, provided the second to Abernethy's nomination.

"There were a lot of quality people with their names out there," Weaver said, admitting he was surprised by his appointment. "The people of Newton's voices were heard today. I want to do my best for the city."

Stedman defeated Weaver by 91 votes in the mayoral race, but she said she looks forward to serving alongside him. It won't be the first time she has worked alongside him, either.

"I was at the polls with him," she said of the mayoral campaign. "I got to know him, and I think we embrace the same philosophy. We will make a good team."

After voicing reluctance to nominate another citizen — arguing "we know how the votes are going to fall" — Council member Mary Bess Lawing nominated long-time Newton resident and educator John Stiver to fill Stedman's unexpired term. Stiver and his family own 2 Pink Magnolias in downtown Newton; he serves on the city's newly created Business Advisory Committee; and, she said, he is an "excellent candidate." 

Council member Wayne Dellinger nominated Lawing to serve as the city's mayor pro tem before Lutz was elected to the post.

Stedman fills a role held for the past eight years by Robert A. Mullinax Sr., and she paid tribute to her predecessor as she took office.

"I have been proud to serve along with him," she said, adding he was mayor during her entire time on the council. "In that time we opened a new cemetery, Southside Cemetery which is a beautiful place; the Jacobs Fork Park on N.C. 10 and the Heritage Greenway, which we are very proud of. During those eight years, we also created more than 1,000 jobs with the Target Distribution Center, ZF Lemforder, and Flowers Bakery.

"He also left a legacy for us in that we developed the capital improvement plan which will see us well into the future," she continued, adding Mullinax helped oversee creation of the city's Business Advisory Committee. "I wish he was here to accept my gratitude, but he didn't want any attention drawn to himself."

Mullinax offered brief comments before leaving office.

"To each of you, the department heads and each council member it has been my privilege," he said, "and I thank you."

Newton City Manager Todd Clark pledged to support Stedman and the council — which included three incumbents who also took their oaths of office Tuesday: Tom Rowe, Dellinger and Lawing.

"The staff and myself will uphold the policies that you set forth," he said. "We support you in every way and we remain steadfast in that effort."